History in the skies over central Illinois:
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[September 21, 2012]
BLOOMINGTON -- If you were in
Bloomington on Thursday and looked up, you might have seen a little
history repeat itself. Or, if you are up there Friday, Saturday or
Sunday, you might also get a view of history repeating itself.
A 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane made a weather-perfect appearance.
Owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Tri-Motor makes
appearances throughout the country, generally at chapter-sponsored
cities, such as in Bloomington by EAA Chapter 129.
The Tri-Motor was developed by Henry Ford to meet, in his mind, a
future need for air travel. Nicknamed "The Tin Goose," the craft was
initially sold to Pitcairn Division of Eastern Air Transport, later
to become Eastern Airlines.
With only 200 built, the plane brought to Bloomington -- "High on
America," tail number N8419 -- is one out of only 12 that still
exist, and not all are in flying condition.
After being used by Eastern, it was then put to use by Cuba to
fly between Havana and Santiago de Cuba, and then by the government
of the Dominican Republic. It returned to the United States in 1949
to barnstorm throughout the country.
In 1950 it was sent to Arizona to be refitted for use to fight
fires and then modified for use by smoke jumpers. It was also used
in various other businesses, including crop dusting and public
rides, and was the primary setting in "The Family Jewels," a Jerry
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In 1973, the plane performed at EAA's fly-in at Burlington, Wash.
While there, a thunderstorm ripped it from its tie-downs, threw it
50 feet, and the plane landed on its back.
The EAA purchased the salvaged plane and started a 12-year
process of restoring and fitting it with three Pratt and Whitney
engines. It made its debut flight in 1985 in Oshkosh, Wis., at EAA's
annual convention and then was displayed at the AirVenture Museum
It then returned to taking passengers on rides, providing a
nostalgic view of the first steps of a newly born industry. Those
steps have taken us to the moon and back.
[By FUZZ WERTH]